Efforts to punish two security agents who revealed risks at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport are being scrutinized by federal authorities.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel blocked the forced transfer of Andrew Rhoades and the suspension of Rebecca Roering, both assistant security directors for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
The special counsel office is an independent investigative and prosecutorial agency that protects federal employees from reprisal for whistle-blowing, among other things.
According to the counsel, Roering disclosed a vulnerability in TSA’s PreCheck program, and a Homeland Security investigation substantiated it. The TSA proposed suspending her in March but put the suspension on hold at the counsel’s request. The counsel is looking into whether the suspension is connected to Roering’s report of the security shortcoming.
In Rhoades’ case, he had objected to a supervisor’s proposal to have TSA screeners handle confiscated weapons improperly, the counsel said. He also reported that stickers were not consistently placed on checked, cleared bags. Both issues have been remedied.
After local news stories on security lapses at the airport last fall, one of Rhoades’ supervisors reassigned him in February from the Twin Cities to Tampa, Fla. The transfer was put on hold at the counsel’s request and later withdrawn.
Rhoades said Wednesday he had not leaked security information to news media. He said he would have no hesitation to again point out similar security concerns to supervisors.
“I would absolutely bring it up,” said Rhoades, who has been with the TSA for 12 years. “I will never refrain from anything that would, in my silence, put the public at risk.”
Rhoades said he would not accept a transfer to Tampa. A TSA spokesman in Washington declined to address the two cases.